I've heard of being chained to your desk, but this is ridiculous. Yes, I have joined the ranks of those using not just standup desks, but a treadmill under my desk. As I dictate this, walking, I have a two-thirds of a mile at .6 miles an hour in the past hour. I can step off to the left and work standing at my standup writing desk if I need a slant – top surface, or I can step off to the right and sit in my office chair and still use my desk. (Amazingly, if I leave the treadmill running while standing or sitting I continue to accrue mileage without even having to walk. Now what kind of a great exercise plan is that?)
As I have posted previously, articles such as this indicate that standup desks help focus and provide some health benefits, but do not go as far as weight loss. However, pairing a treadmill with a standup desk generally does result in weight loss, while in some cases being reported as enhancing concentration and focus even more. For me, the tipping point was when California lawyer Rachael "Reverse Bifurcation" Lamkin recently flagged an article pointing out that merely standing doesn't provide much in the way of health benefits compared to actually moving. Biased as I am against motion in general, I decided that was probably a good indication that I needed to take the next step (drops mike).
As far as additional fatigue, it does add some. I'm used to standing virtually all day in my office, and with only an hour or so on the treadmill this afternoon, I can already tell that some muscles are being worked and fatigue generated (feet & hips thus far) that wasn't the case when I was simply standing. I assume it is going to get much more pronounced tomorrow and in the future.
At least in my experience, the idea is that if pacing or walking helps you to think, it lets you do that without distracting yourself from the work at hand. Some of us do prefer to pace when dictating. My paralegal recently noticed my habit of walking in circles around my desk when dictating into a wireless headless (don't tell anybody, okay?). It helps me keep a train of thought going - I noticed that right away after I started using wireless headsets for dictation.
I do agree with the Winstead partner interviewed above who indicated that he prefers not to walk when making detailed document revisions – there are some things that benefit from giving a document your complete attention – but paradoxically walking helps me to focus on things on a computer screen. It might have something to do with the fact that you are essentially locked in place with respect to your screens, and for some reason especially when considering several inputs at once, the ability to pace in place helps me turn from one to another more efficiently.
And I think I figured out why – I have so many work surfaces and screens, from sitting desk, standing desk, standing writing desk to monitors 1, 2, and 3 plus the iPad, that it appears I had a tendency to putter from surface to surface sometimes, rather than work continuously. With the treadmill, you do have to organize your work a little more efficiently so that everything is within arm's length. But once you do that, you really can't get away from what is in front of you on the screen without consciously deciding to do so. You can't turn and check what's on the other desk, or pace or anything else. You just have to keep walking and work the next item on the screen. So for certain types of work it does make you more efficient. For me, I notice more focus on the accuracy of operation of the dictation software, and I can definitely see more focus on the content of the specific document or email or website that is in front of me. Not wanting to go to the trouble of getting off the treadmill keeps you focused on the task at hand better than simply standing.
But I'm still not clipping on the safety key.
It's a quiet Good Friday at the office catching up on reading (both legal and nonlegal) and looking over some old Easter photos while the boys are sleeping late at home before we head out for an abbreviated spring break.
I particularly like this one where I'm already expressing an interest in plaid sportcoats, my grandfather is looking appropriately dignified amid the chaos that was fashion in 1970, and what the hell is that on my mother's head?
Jillian Centanni has a good article 11 Lessons From A Year Of Post-Octane Atty Fee Decisions on Law360, in which she provides some useful guidance from the recent district court cases concerning whether a case is "exceptional" under section 285 for purposes of recovery of attorney's fees. To summarize, Vince Lombardi once said that “winning is not everything, it is the only thing” but he can't have been talking about section 285, because the courts are holding that winning is, well not much at all, actually. It takes something more, and the article provides a useful checklist of what that something might or might not be. It is a shame that she didn't cite any of the opinions by Federal Circuit judges Bryson and Dyk sitting by designation in the Eastern District of Texas on this point, since they might provide some useful guidance into how the new standard might be perceived on appeal since that is, you know, their day job. They are not inconsistent with the cases that she did cite, but in my experience, you are wasting a good opportunity to mooch off someone else's very good work if you don't check for cases by Judge Bryson first...
And as I have posted recently, I have been speaking on the topic of productivity, the paperless office and office technology a lot lately, and am getting ready for yet another presentation on the topics to the Smith County Bar Association in Tyler next Friday. In the process of updating my presentation, I ran across a good article by Professor Naomi Baron on a topic I like to cover, which is the difference between handling reading on paper and on a computer screen. In Why Reading On A Screen Is Bad For Critical Thinking, Professor Baron points out some issues that I have seen come up repeatedly in discussing how we read and process information. Specifically, studies are consistently showing that people concentrate better when reading on paper, and remember what they have read better. Unfortunately, studies also show that we significantly overestimate what we remember and learned when it was on a computer screen. I cite and discuss some of those studies in my paper on the subject, and will talk about that in Tyler next week.
Speaking of personal productivity, I am always glad to see a good article explaining the Getting Things Done (GTD) system by David Allen, and ran across a new good summary of it a couple of weeks back, GTD 101: The Beginner’s Guide To Getting Things Done by Michael Schmitz (who almost has a really good name) on the www.asianefficiency.com website. If you aren't familiar with the system, and don't want to take the time to read the book to find out what it is about – in the article does note that the book is a little lengthy and repetitive - it is one of the best summaries I have seen, and should help you decide if the system is for you.
Finally, Matt Mcfarland (who apparently has some issues with capitalization - the "f" is not a typo) and has an interesting article in the Washington Post Why shades of Asperger’s Syndrome are the secret to building a great tech company, that points up the potential benefits of not having the conventional attachment to social norms that is a characteristic of some forms of autism, including Asperger's. No particular reason I'm interested in this.
Let's see - what else? A few venue orders, a raft of Twiqbal orders (one of which I posted on yesterday), a long list of miscellaneous commercial and criminal cases from Sherman and Plano, and last but not least, an interesting order on a Daubert motion excluding a plaintiff's damages expert for running afoul of the entire market value rule (more or less) on a damages expert in a patent case, and also suggesting that some revisions in light of a marking issue might be in order. As my college roommate used to say, "Good stuff, Maynard."
Well, that's enough work for a day we're closed - off to Gucci's for a light (ha!) lunch, then time to hit the road. Hope everyone has a good holiday weekend. Happy Easter, and may all the eggs you find be golden.
Several weeks ago I was talking to a law school administrator who was bemoaning the fact that a lot of current law students are a little short on business and money management skills, in part because their academic success in some cases was assisted by their parents acting as personal assistants handling everyday tasks, including financial management. I'm not just talking about parents providing financial support - I'm talking about parents handling the financial transactions to the point that the student doesn't have a clear grasp of how checkbooks or credit cards or budgets or monthly bills work. (I had it much easier - neither my parents nor I had any money so the management part was pretty simple. You can't buy anything). Yet in this economy many of these same students are going straight from law school into hanging out their own shingles, having never seen a household budget, much less a law firm's finances, much less actually managed either.
Enter another Lawyerist article too useful to pass up commenting on. This article on Lawyerist by Randall Ryder is a detailed how-to manual for setting up accounts, managing cash flow and credit, paying taxes and managing income, and forecasting income. These are critical skills that are not taught in law school, and even many experienced lawyers (and firms) struggle to stay on top of their firm finances. This is a must-read for anyone who manages a law firm’s finances or is even thinking about starting one.
I hope some readers find it useful.
When I wrote "Starting A New Law Office: A Checklist" for the Texas Bar Journal in 2008, I wasn't the only lawyer writing about the technology needed to operate the law office. Sam Glover over at Lawyerist put together a catalog of the technology he used to manage his practice the same year, and then updated the list in 2010.
Earlier today I noticed that he has updated the list again with what he would use if he were starting a new solo practice. This link has a link to the full post, as well as a list of the tools, with links to reviews. it's a pretty good list – I use six of the 13 he recommends.
I posted last summer on standing desks after I got a variable height one (so I can work standing or sitting), and in recent weeks have seen some additional information on the subject I thought might be of of interest to lawyers looking at making the switch.
ReadWrite article - Julia Gifford
In the article above, Gifford goes through some recent analysis of the use of standing tables, which she claims have become the mark of a "hip" office, but which have also been the subject of something of a recent backlash.
The reason I mention the article is that she provided a study by a startup incubator in Latvia (seriously, Latvia. When did I ever think I'd use that word in a sentence?) tracking time and productivity using standing desks. The Latvians found (oh, those zany Latvians) that:
The study didn't attempt to address the claimed potential health issues of standup desks. Nor was there any attempt to identify whether these findings were specific to Latvians or depended disproportionately on Latvian characteristics (whatever those might be). Accordingly, I offer mine.
In my seven months of use, I can vouch for the two test results bolded above – that use of the standing desk seems to have helped me be more productive, and has helped me focus on the completion of tasks. I tend to disagree that standing is a hindrance to tasks that require a creative approach, as I can pace now while reading or dictating, even when doing something arguably creative, but I suspect that is a individual tendency. I particularly like being able to turn back and forth from my monitors at the standup desk to my iPad at my old architect's desk, which has my to do list open most of the day (the RTM desktop leaves much to be desired, unfortunately). And that does help me get through the afternoon slump when it comes.
Disappointingly, I have to agree that the standing desk doesn't seem to promote weight loss, although it conceivably could be blocking weight gain I suppose. The one thing I do have to note is that if you are going to stand most of the day, as I now do, you have to get comfortable shoes to accommodate it. You can't stand all day in your courtroom shoes. Silicon Valley workers may not have to take that into consideration, but lawyers often do. So I rely more on Rockports and Timberlands than I did previously. No oxfords or even loafers. It makes an enormous difference.
Another good post from Lawyerist.com - Luddite Lawyers Are Ethical Violations Waiting To Happen, noting that with the recent amendments to Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1, technological competence is now an ethical issue. The article also cites some disquieting state court caselaw from Missouri and Maryland to the effect the researching prospective jurors online and through social networking cites is a “matter of professional competence.”
A year ago I posted on changing some of the programs and apps I use to try to stay productive, including deciding to switch my task software to Remember the Milk, and sign up for the pro subscription at $25 a year. In July I noted changes in the way RTM and Evernote work together that helps make both even more productive. I was just reminded of all of this when I renewed my subscription today.
Best $25 I have spent in a while. Although I still hate the cow.
One of my favorite legal practice blogs Lawyerist has a good article this morning on how to organize paperless client files by Sam Glover. Probably not applicable to lawyers at larger firms where this sort of thing is handled by trained staff and translated for lawyers' consumption by yet more trained staff - but if you actually want to know how to do it, it's a good explanation for a way to do it.
Of course no system in a law office is worthwhile until a lawyer with no actual expertise in the area has tweaked, haggled, adjusted, reworked and changed their mind on it so many times that their paralegal finally screams "enough!" and threatens to quit. Or is that just me?
For me, the gold standard for a good filing system is that you can pull up the document you need on an iPad in a hearing and hand the iPad to the lawyer as they're arguing a motion during a hearing. I got to do that in a pretrial conference against ... yes, I do believe it was TQP last August before Judge Bryson, and it was pretty cool.
The bad thing about them is that you can spend more time trying to find your cursor
than you do working. If you (like me) have this problem, right click on your desktop and pull up the Personalize menu. You can change (or magnify) the pointer icon, as well as install the cursor equivalent of the Clapper - if I can't find it I press the Ctrl button and it waves at me.
I am constantly losing the thing down on the Lenovo monitor since it's further away, so this helps me a lot.